Best Birding Locations

Grab your binoculars, camera and walking stick and head out to these parks and reserves for birding in the Twin Cities during spring migration

By Claire Noack

With the spring migration bringing flocks back to Minnesota, don’t miss your chance to see your favorite bird species around the Twin Cities. The abundance of parks, wildlife reserves and river bluffs in the area make ideal habitats for a wide variety of birds to nest. Whether you enjoy searching for rare species or taking photographs of the local wildlife, there are plenty of hotspots for birding in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge
One of the best places in the Twin Cities for birding, the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is home to dozens of bird species on 14,000 acres of preserved land in nearby suburb Bloomington. Grasslands, ponds, thickets and woods, along with 70 miles of land along the Minnesota River, create terrific opportunities to spot birds during the spring migration. The bass ponds and Old Cedar Ave. bridge are some favorites of the local birding community. The National Wildlife Refuge also hosts public bird watching treks throughout the spring season.

Keep your eyes peeled for: red-tailed hawks, cardinals, Cooper’s hawks, bald eagles, wood ducks, white-crowned sparrows, Eastern bluebirds, American redstarts, Blackburnian warblers, Tennessee warblers, Nashville warblers

T.S. Roberts Bird Sanctuary
This 31-acre sanctuary on the northeast side of Lake Harriet is an urban oasis for birds. The T.S. Roberts Bird Sanctuary is comprised of wooded and lakeshore areas, and is part of the popular Minneapolis Chain of Lakes in Uptown Minneapolis. The preserve is named after Thomas Sadler Roberts, professor of ornithology at the University of Minnesota and author of “Birds of Minnesota” in 1932.

Keep your eyes peeled for: yellow-rumped warblers, Northern cardinals, ring-billed gulls, American coots, barred owls, broad-winged hawks, herons, egrets

Eloise Butler Wildflower and Bird Sanctuary
From prairies to woodlands to wetlands, the Eloise Butler Wildflower and Bird Sanctuary’s diverse natural habitats make it a superb location to see many different types of birds. The 15-acre site just outside Minneapolis hosts more than 130 resident and migratory bird species, as well as 500 different herbaceous and woody plants. The garden is part of the larger 740-acre Theodore Wirth Park, which features mud flats that are equally as good for birding.

Keep your eyes peeled for: white-breasted nuthatches, Canada geese, Cooper’s hawks, Baltimore orioles, pied-billed grebes, common yellowthroats

Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary
Aside from being excellent birding location during the spring migration, the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary touts 450-million-year-old limestone and sandstone bluffs, rich Native American history and views of the downtown St. Paul skyline. Located along the east side of the Mississippi River, the 29-acre greenspace has been restored in recent years to provide a better ecosystem for native plants and wildlife.

Keep your eyes peeled for: bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures, Northern flickers, Indigo buntings

Crosby Farm and Hidden Falls Regional Parks
Trails connecting Crosby Farm Regional Park and Hidden Falls Regional Park, where the Minnesota River meets the Mississippi River, is a popular hub for birds during spring migration. Crosby features wooded trails, marches and river areas, while Hidden Falls includes a spring-fed waterfall, flood plains and mixed oak forests. Both parks are prime locations to scope out birds along the waterways and take photographs of wildlife.

Keep your eyes peeled for: black-billed cuckoos, great egrets, broad-winged hawks, prothonotary warblers, turkey vultures, belted kingfishers, barred owl, herons, bald eagles, double-crested cormorants, Eastern phoebes, Nashville warblers, red-eyed vireos, Tennessee warblers

Upcoming Birding Event
Attend the Urban Birding Festival of the Twin Cities from May 12 through May 21. Don’t miss out on this exciting event hosted by Audubon Minnesota, where bird watching enthusiasts can meet and go birding at dozens of sites around the Twin Cities.

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